We recently surveyed 657 photographers to answer the question:
What photo editing software do photographers use in 2023?
We also looked at why photographers choose to use Adobe Lightroom or why they prefer an alternative editing tool.
What we uncovered surprised us, and today I’m going to share our findings with you.
1. 58% of photographers use Adobe Lightroom to edit photos
2. The main reason why photographers choose Lightroom is because it offers all the editing features they need.
3. The second most common reason is due to ease of use.
4. The most common reason why photographers don’t use Lightroom is that they don’t want to pay for a subscription.
5. The second most common reason is that Lightroom lacks editing features that some photographers need.
6. Adobe Photoshop, Luminar, and Capture One are the 3 most popular photo editing software choices of photographers who don’t use Lightroom.
7. If the photographers who use Lightroom had to choose an alternative software, the majority would choose Capture One.
8. The majority of the photographers we surveyed were amateurs (63% amateurs vs. 37% professionals).
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Adobe Lightroom is the Most Popular Photo Editing Software in 2023
Out of 657 survey respondents, 381 (58%) use Adobe Lightroom, while 276 (42%) use other editing tools.
Being a Lightroom user of 7+ years and having tested virtually every other popular image editing app, I believe that Lightroom is still the best choice for most photographers.
However, it’s also true that some other photo editing software in 2023 offers additional features that may be more relevant to certain photographers.
Capture One, for example, has superior tethered shooting functionality to Lightroom.
Luminar can replace entire skies in landscape photos (Photoshop can do this, but not Lightroom).
Topaz offers better image sharpening than Lightroom, and DxO PhotoLab has better colour management.
(Some of these features can actually be added to Lightroom via extensions or plugins.)
Overall, though, Lightroom features all the tools most photographers will ever need while providing the best cross-device image editing/management platform.
Lightroom Offers all the Editing Features Most Photographers Require
Most photographers (29.83%) use Adobe Lightroom because it offers all the editing features they need.
In terms of core editing functionality, this is certainly true – Lightroom offers everything that most photographers would ever need to manage and edit photos.
In addition, Adobe continues to leverage its impressive Sensei technology to bring new AI-powered tools to Lightroom, such as Adaptive Presets, Scene Analysis, and Masking.
The second most common reason (18.16%) for using Lightroom is that it’s easy to use.
While Lightroom certainly isn’t the most intuitive editing software for beginners, once set up correctly, it is relatively simple to operate, and the UI becomes familiar quickly.
Photographers Don’t Use Lightroom due to the Subscription
No surprises here – the most common reason (56%) that photographers choose not to use Lightroom is due to the Adobe subscription plan.
Adobe switched to a Creative Cloud subscription model in May 2013, preventing people from buying Lightroom outright and annoying a lot of users in the process.
Traditionally, Adobe sold perpetual licenses to Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and other Adobe apps.
With Creative Cloud, you need to pay a monthly fee to gain access to the full range of Adobe programs and associated online services.
The cost of Lightroom varies depending on whether you commit to an annual subscription and the amount of storage space you require.
While there are over 26 million paid members of Adobe Creative Cloud, many photographers still refuse to pay each month for the privilege of using Lightroom.
Fortunately, there are several other photo editing software apps that can still be purchased outright (although, predictably, most of them also offer subscription plans too).
Photoshop is the Most Popular Editing Software for Non-Users of Lightroom
Of those photographers who don’t use Lightroom, the most common editing software in use (23.86%) is Adobe Photoshop.
This is interesting since it indicates that photographers have the option of using either Lightroom or Photoshop but are choosing to use the latter for their image editing needs.
Confusingly, while Photoshop is available for USD20.99/mo, you can get the Photography Plan which includes Photoshop and Lightroom, for USD19.99/mo.
(So, it’s safe to assume that any Photoshop user also has access to Lightroom.)
Photoshop is traditionally a graphic manipulation tool reserved for complex layer-based editing.
However, these results suggest that photographers are using Photoshop for regular image editing tasks.
This is perhaps due to the increased level of precise editing control that Photoshop offers via layers, Smart Objects, and impressive Neural Filters.
Photoshop does not, however, offer any DAM or image management functionality, which Lightroom excels at.
The second most popular photo editing software (17.01%) among non-users of Lightroom is Skylum Luminar.
In its latest incarnation, Luminar Neo offers powerful AI editing tools which are simple and enjoyable to use.
In third place (12.18%) is Capture One, popular in particular with professional photographers for its RAW processing capabilities, precise color management, and tethered shooting capabilities.
Surprisingly, Adobe Camera Raw is still a popular choice (9.90%) for editing photos.
Adobe Photoshop cannot open RAW files without Adobe Camera Raw. ACR is an included app when you subscribe to a Photoshop Creative Cloud package.
7.87% of respondents choose to use Topaz Labs in favour of Lightroom.
Topaz sells a selection of individual editing tools for specific tasks, and more recently, Topaz Photo AI, which sharpens, removes noise, and increases the resolution of photos.
If Lightroom Users Had to Switch, They’d Switch to Capture One
We asked survey respondents what software they would choose if Lightroom suddenly became unavailable.
In most cases (22.26%), respondents would choose Capture One as a replacement for Lightroom.
In second place (20.67%), Luminar, and in third place, Photoshop (18.28%).
Final Notes on How the Survey was Conducted
After creating the survey using JotForm, we shared the link in various places:
- Facebook Groups
- Shotkit email subscribers
- Shotkit Facebook followers
We took care to select ‘neutral’ photographer groups that wouldn’t skew the results with specific brand loyalty, etc.
Obviously, there are various limitations and assumptions when conducting a survey of this type on a relatively small scale.
Next time, for example, we will collect data from a larger number of photographers and devise a way to display more responses in a concise format.
We will also go more in-depth regarding the various reasons photographers choose one editing software over the other.
If you have any suggestions which may help improve future surveys, please leave them in the comments section below.